The Common Good

Going Native

Date: April 30, 2012


A reader calls our attention to a March 2004 interview that Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times conducted with Barack Obama, then an Illinois state senator and candidate for U.S. Senate. In 2008 Steve Waldman, then editor of, republished the interview, which he described as "the most detailed and fascinating explication of Barack Obama's faith." This part caught our interest:
Falsani: Do you believe in sin?
Obama: Yes.
Falsani: What is sin?
Obama: Being out of alignment with my values.
This is a tad ambiguous. Is Obama declaring himself the ultimate moral arbiter, so that you are a sinner if you are out of alignment with his values?
That would be an uncharitable construction. It seems more likely that he is declaring himself his own moral arbiter, so that he is a sinner if he is out of alignment with his own values. To our mind it is not a recognizably Christian conception of sin.